December 17, 2011

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting Continues Its Disgusting Apologetics for the Corporate Media

Are there no depths to which the lickspittles at FAIR won't sink in their desperation to kiss the corporate state's jackboot? Apparently not, as you'll see in this post. Chief FAIR propagandist Peter Hart pretends to "criticize" the Washington Post for publishing an article about the Iraq war that provides a long laundry list of rationales for the invasion—including an attempt by Saddam Hussein "to kill then-President Bush's father"—because weapons of mass destruction only make an appearance at the end. Hart writes:

In this bizarre re-telling, Saddam Hussein's support for Hamas and a plot to kill George H. W. Bush seem to matter more than the bogus stories about Iraq's WMDs.

Notice the sleight of hand? There was no evidence at the time in 1993 that Saddam actually tried to assassinate Bush, Sr. and there's no evidence now, after we invaded the country and seized all their government officials and files.

Yet this doesn't stop Peter "Goebbels" Hart from "overlooking" the Washington Post's falsehood and oh-so-coincidentally repeating it as unquestioned fact...all the while posing as an opponent of the media's deceit! If the Soviet Union had had paid liars as sophisticated as Mr. Hart, they'd still be in business today.

BUT SERIOUSLY: It really goes to show how deep the propaganda goes in the U.S. that even FAIR missed this one. I'm sure I myself miss ten things like it every day. God only knows how much of the "history" we all have in our heads is fabricated.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:48 PM | Comments (21)

December 16, 2011

'Letter to a Lost Friend'

Please read this from Dennis Perrin:

Christopher --

I hoped it wouldn't come to this. Writing to you after you've died. As you know, I've reached out to you since a mutual friend told me of your illness. Ceased my attacks and critiques. Not that I changed my mind about your pro-war position, but my feelings ran deeper than partisan rifts.

We never met again. Friends said it was because you were in treatment. Weak. Unable to talk. I know that's true. But maybe you simply didn't want to see me. I understand. All I desired was to look you in the eyes one last time and say thanks. So this will have to suffice.

The rest.

I'm sure there's a more appropriate day to say this, but here's what I feel about Hitchens' death: since 8:00 am on September 11, 2001, about five million people in the U.S. have died of cancer. Of that five million, about 130,000 had esophageal cancer, which killed Hitchens. And in the same ten years, 3,010 were killed by Islamist terrorism, 99% of them on the first day.

As Thomas "Crazy Legs" Jefferson said, "The evils which of necessity encompass the life of man are sufficiently numerous. Why should we add to them by voluntarily distressing and destroying one another?" What makes war cheerleading even more grotesque than in the past is that some of these evils no longer encompass life, because we have the knowledge to mitigate or even eliminate them. I'd sure like to have that $3 trillion we'll eventually spend on the Iraq war back for cancer research. Or Alzheimer's research. Or more effective antibiotics. Or prenatal nutrition. Or whatever. Who knows what we could have done with it if we hadn't decided we had to spend it murdering Iraqis.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 05:45 PM | Comments (31)

December 15, 2011

Thank You, Tablet

A few days ago I apologized to Tablet Magazine for some of this post. After thinking about it, I realized that I should also thank them for several things:

1. Everyone tends to think the worst of people they already don't like. This often leads to mistakes, in which you jump to conclusions and misinterpret their behavior. In fact, this is one big reason why government intelligence agencies in every country tend to be wrong about everything all the time. So I'm grateful to Tablet for reminding me that, even though I'm conscious of this tendency, I'm still vulnerable to it.

2. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's often only your "enemies" who are paying close enough attention and care enough to tell you about them. This is why I think you have to listen to what your dastardly foes say—they're a much more reliable source of information about your flaws than your friends. If you don't do this, you run the risk of becoming a monster who perceives themselves to be a martyr.

3. The original article in Tablet by Lee Smith is much more honest than most writing about U.S. foreign policy. Smith doesn't bother with the standard garbage about our luv for democracy; he straightforwardly says that we own the middle east, and we have to kill lots of people to keep it. (I especially like the part about how "our inheritance includes the Persian Gulf," hence we must bomb the Persians.)

Most members of the U.S. foreign policy elite will tell you this is why we do everything, but they won't say it in public; it's usually only after they've had a couple of beers with you in a bar in Arlington, Virginia around the corner from the Pentagon. Lee Smith was the rare exception, as was Lyndon Johnson when he said this to U.S. soldiers in 1966:

There are 3 billion people in the world and we have only 200 million of them. We are outnumbered 15 to 1. If might did make right they would sweep over the United States and take what we have. We have what they want.

Just getting most discussions of U.S. foreign policy to this level would be a giant step forward. We could then move onto issues like:

A) If we have to kill and kill and kill to keep what "we" have, can we have a discussion about whether we'd rather continue slaughtering millions, or be somewhat poorer? And if we do decide we want to keep killing everyone, shouldn't all this stuff "we" have be more evenly distributed?

B) Is it in fact the case that we have to slaughter millions to remain a wealthy country? Maybe it's not necessary to spend our lives wading waist-deep through rivers of blood in order to have central air conditioning.

So thank you, Tablet.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:11 PM | Comments (8)

December 11, 2011

I Apologize to Tablet

I recently made fun of Tablet Magazine for emblazoning "Agents of Influence" across a picture of Leon Panetta in a column by Lee Smith about Iran. My interpretation was that they were implying that Panetta and other dreary time-servers in the Obama administration were somehow spies for Iran, and compared them to Squealer in Animal Farm. But as their editor, Alana Newhouse, tells me, "Agents of Influence" is the name of Lee Smith's column there, and it's on the main photograph on everything he writes. So I apologize to Tablet.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:11 PM | Comments (9)

December 10, 2011

Please Support Glenn Greenwald and Salon

Glenn Greenwald is holding his annual fundraiser. I just donated, and I hope you can too if you have the means. I think this Greenwald character could have a real impact if he just developed a better work ethic.

Ha ha! But seriously, Greenwald's not just the I.F. Stone of the 21st century; he's on a path to accomplish more than Stone ever did because he's making use of all the communication tools that didn't exist when Stone was working. It's an exciting and inspiring thing to see—hopefully for everyone, and certainly for weirdos like me with overlapping ambitions.

I also just paid $45 for a subscription to Salon, and I encourage you to check it out and consider doing the same. Salon sees which way the tide is running, politically-speaking, and is trying to reinvent itself to play a useful, creative role in our coming decade of global class war.

And for more Greenwaldianism, check out this recent long interview in which he talks about many things, including his family. I especially liked the stories about his grandfather and how he successfully encouraged Greenwald to run for city council while still in high school:

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:07 AM | Comments (5)

December 09, 2011

And Why Beholdest Thou the Mote That Is in Thy Brother's Eye, but Perceivest Not the 900-Foot Tall Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in Thine Own?

You know what frustrated Ronald Reagan? When people mistook some kind of bullshit image for reality. This is from an October, 1983 letter from Reagan to Meldrim Thompson, Governor of New Hampshire, about the bill for a national holiday for Martin Luther King that has just been passed:

On the national holiday you mentioned, I have the reservations you have but here the perception of too many people is based on an image not reality. Indeed to them the perception is reality. We hope some modifications might still take place in Congress.

Man, that truly deserves to be part of the permanent exhibit in the Museum of Human Self-Delusion. Yet it's almost completely unknown outside of the right-wing fever swamps. (They're mad because contemporary Republicans talk about how great King was, rather than understanding, like Reagan, that he was a commie plagiarizing adulterer.)

But wait, IT GETS BETTER. The same letter from Reagan includes a reference to the "Korean plane massacre"—i.e., the shooting down of KAL 007 two months before on September 1, 1983—and Gov. Thompson's frustration that more wasn't being done to "really punish the Soviets." The book in which Reagan's letter is published was edited by several conservative professors, and helpfully notes that

[T]he United States had secret intelligence intercepts that proved the Soviets did it deliberately...At first the CIA refused to reveal what it knew for fear of compromising our intelligence operations, but Secretary of State George Shultz insisted [Shultz, clearly an extremely manly man, also wrote the foreword to the book]. Faced with proof they had done it, the Soviets still maintained they thought the huge Boeing 747 was an American "spy plane."

Of course, this is false. Alvin Snyder, the head of the U.S. Information Agency's TV and film division in 1983, later wrote a book called Warriors of Disinformation. In it he explained that the U.S. deceitfully edited the intelligence intercepts to make it appear the Soviets had knowingly shot down a civilian airliner. In fact, what the intercepts showed was that a U.S. spy plane had been in the vicinity earlier; the Soviet pilot believed KAL 007 was that plane; and that at the instructions of Soviet air controllers, he had attempted to force the plane down and fired warning shots before finally being given orders to shoot it down. Snyder wrote in his book that "The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first." And indeed, it was a giant propaganda coup for the U.S.

Did the editors of the book know this? Did George Shultz? Did even Reagan himself when he wrote the letter? Possibly not. As a great moral philosopher teaches us, "The perception of too many people is based on an image not reality. Indeed to them the perception is reality."

P.S. I found out about the KAL 007 story from Robert Parry's Consortium News. Please donate to their holiday fundraiser.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:13 PM | Comments (12)

Completely Wrong Today, Completely Wrong Tomorrow, Completely Wrong Forever!

As always, Robert Samuelson is standing on the Washington Post's steps, preventing reality from getting inside:

Europe’s turmoil is more than a currency crisis and was inevitable, in some form, even if the euro had never been created. It’s ultimately a crisis of the welfare state, which has grown too large to be easily supported economically.

I'm not sure when the Washington Post first began reporting that the welfare state can't be supported economically. I believe it was shortly after Bismark took power in 1871.

For more of Robert Samuelson's uncannily acute understanding of economics, see this column of his from July, 2008:

[O]n the whole, the banking system seems fairly strong ... The paradoxical thing about today's economy is its strength.

BUT THERE'S MORE: Samuelson's 2008 column was endorsed at the time by Greg Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during Bush's first term and definitely in the top 20 people responsible for our current catastrophe. I will always remember interviewing Mankiw in 2005, and how he got extremely upset when I suggested we might be experiencing a housing bubble.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:58 AM | Comments (9)

December 08, 2011

We Have Reason to Think That Some of Snowball's Secret Agents Are Lurking Among Us at This Moment!

UPDATE: See my apology to Tablet for this post

I'm inured to the vacuous, casual brutality of most American writing about foreign policy. So I'm not surprised that Lee Smith, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is clamoring for us to bomb Iran's "oil and natural-gas fields, its ports, power plants, reservoirs, and dams." Or his blithe acknowledgement that this will result in Americans being killed at "the Mall of America, the Port of Los Angeles, Disney World, who knows?" Or that he celebrates our support for both sides of the "bloodbath" of the Iran-Iraq war. Or that he believes that "our inheritance includes the Persian Gulf." Or the predictable fact that, as an employee of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Smith opposes democracy.

Still, I was a little taken aback that Tablet Magazine, where this appeared, plastered "Agents of Influence" across a photo of Leon Panetta accompanying the article:


"Agent of influence," of course, is a term used by intelligence agencies for people in positions of power in another country who they've recruited to do their bidding.

There's nothing explaining this picture in the article; it doesn't claim that Leon Panetta—and others in the Obama administration who aren't clamoring to obliterate Iran yesterday—are Iranian spies. Tablet is just, you know...throwing it out there.

Now, obviously I understand this is the go-to move of all political thugs everywhere, if usually more explicit. The crazy jingoists of every country on earth have always accused their domestic political opponents of being secretly in league with their foreign enemy of the moment. That's why George Orwell wrote about it in Animal Farm:

It seemed to them as though Snowball were some kind of invisible influence, pervading the air about them and menacing them with all kinds of dangers. In the evening Squealer called them together, and with an alarmed expression on his face told them that he had some serious news to report..."I warn every animal on this farm to keep his eyes very wide open. For we have reason to think that some of Snowball's secret agents are lurking among us at this moment!"

So Saddam Hussein accused any Iraqis who opposed him of being Zionist agents (or Iranian agents, or both). Anyone who objected to gulags was in the pay of the imperialist capitalist running dogs. People investigating Joe McCarthy's corruption were Soviet moles. Etc., etc. You could make a list as long as the history of political evil.

But here's the thing: Smith, and all the people involved in Tablet, are from the cultural milieu in which I grew up. They went to Cornell (Smith), or Barnard (editor Alana Newhouse), or Stanford (executive editor Jesse Oxfeld). I always took it as a baseline assumption that we'd all read Animal Farm, and understood who the bad guys were—and why. But apparently quite a few of us saw it not as a cautionary parable, but as a how-to manual. Squealer certainly seems to have a lush life! How can I get a job like that?!?

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:24 AM | Comments (21)

December 07, 2011

Custer ≠ Sitting Bull

By: John Caruso

This article by Glenn Greenwald is generally good, with one glaring exception:

What we find here is that the extremes on both sides of every conflict eventually come to mirror one another perfectly. Israelis settlers and Hamas have an equal desire to prevent a peace agreement and for the same reasons.

The notion that Hamas wants to prevent a peace agreement is certainly received wisdom in the U.S., but it's also completely false.  Here's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh:

In a rare public appearance, the leader of the Hamas authority in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said the organisation was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the borders that existed before the 1967 war. [...] "If there is a real plan to resolve the Palestinian question on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, and with full sovereignty, we are in favour of it."

Haniyeh said this 6 months after the Israeli attack on Gaza, and he was repeating the same things he'd said well before the attack as well.  And here's Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal:

"There is a position and program that all Palestinians share," he tells NEWSWEEK. "To accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital. With the right of return. And this state would have real sovereignty, on the land and on the borders. And with no settlements."

So Hamas's position is exactly in line with the rest of the civilized world, and the opposition to a peace agreement based on the 1967 borders comes—as it always has—from Israel and the United States.

But the notion that Hamas wants to prevent peace "for the same reasons" as Israeli settlers isn't just factually wrong but fundamentally misguided as well.  Israeli settlers (and the Israeli political establishment generally) want to prevent peace because they know any real peace agreement will mean they'll have to stop stealing Palestinian land, whereas Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups want to keep them from stealing any more of it.  Even if we were to ignore the facts and accept for the sake of argument that Hamas wants to prevent peace, it's not as though Hamas members are flying from Gaza to establish settlements and set up military checkpoints in Brooklyn.

So not only is there no parity between these two positions, it's impossible for there to be parity between them.  Even the most strident and rejectionist member of Hamas would have a more coherent moral justification for his position than an Israeli settler, and you can no more reasonably equate their motivations than you can compare the Sioux to the European colonists who drove them from the land.

AND ALSO: No discussion of Hamas and peace would be complete without this background:

[B]eginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies. [...] "The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place," said a U.S. government official who asked not to be named.

So whenever you hear an Israeli official bemoaning the lack of a "partner for peace" or claiming that Hamas can't be bargained with, never forget the unspoken clause: exactly as we intended.  In fact the Israeli assault on Gaza in December of 2008 was in large part an attempt to reverse Hamas's acceptance of peace and willingness to pursue change through elections rather than force, but—as the quotes from Haniyeh and Meshaal show—it failed in this way just as it failed in so many others.

— John Caruso

Posted at 12:04 PM | Comments (7)

Scott Walker, Sultan of Wisconsin

Scott Walker's administration just announced changes to the regulations governing demonstrations in Wisconsin:

Groups of four or more people must obtain permits for all activity and displays in state buildings and apply for those permits at least 72 hours in advance. The policy requires permits for 100 or more people outside the Capitol. The policy does provide some leeway for spontaneous gatherings triggered by unforeseen events.

Groups holding demonstrations could be charged for the costs of having extra police on hand for the event. Costs associated with a counterprotest could be charged to that second group. The costs would be $50 per hour per Capitol Police officer - costs for police officers from outside agencies would depend on the costs billed to the state. The police could require an advance payment as a requirement for getting a permit and also could require liability insurance or a bond.

When reading that I guessed that the State Department's annual Human Rights Report would criticize countries with similar policies, and thanks to Google, I quickly found out I was right:

Under the emergency powers, the [Brunei] government significantly restricted the right to assemble. According to the Societies Order, public gatherings of 10 or more persons require a government permit, and police have the authority to stop an unofficial assembly of five or more persons deemed likely to cause a disturbance of the peace.

Note that (1) Brunei is ruled by a literal Sultan and has been under martial law since 1962, and (2) its restrictions on freedom of assembly are in some respects LESS ONEROUS THAN WISCONSIN'S. Hopefully the State Department will soon release a Human Rights report examining the conditions in the sultanates of the upper midwest.

UPDATE: LorenzoStDuBios points out that I'm being too generous to Brunei, since their permitting requirement apparently restricts any kind of public gathering, whereas Wisconsin's new rule about four or more people gathering just applies to the inside of public buildings. I will change my proposed tourism slogan for the Badger State from "Wisconsin: More Oppressive Than Brunei" to "Wisconsin: Pending Further Changes, Still Somewhat Less Oppressive Than an Islamic Sultanate!"

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:48 AM | Comments (11)

December 06, 2011


Lots of uninformed people are making fun of Fox Business for this:

Eric Bolling of Follow the Money set the stage on Friday when he hosted a 7-minute segment that argued that The Muppets film – featuring bad-guy oilman Tex Richman -- promotes a left-wing agenda.

“We’re teaching our kids class warfare. Where are we, Communist China?” Bolling said...

“Is liberal Hollywood,” asks Bolling, “using class warfare to kind of brainwash our kids?”

What the fools denigrating Eric Bolling don't understand is that this kind of attack—the forces of darkness insidiously infiltrating our children's minds—has been documented many, many times. Fortunately, just as today, there have also always been stalwart heros who stand up to stop it: 2001 the General Security Directorate provided Saddam a memorandum reporting that the cartoon character "Pokemon" really represented a subterfuge by international Zionism to undermine Iraq's security. Supposedly, "Pokemon" meant "I am Jewish" in Hebrew. They found the fact that the Pokemon character was "widely beloved" by Iraqi youth particularly alarming.

The only difference between Iraq in 2001 and America in 2011 is that our security services have not been wise enough (yet) to hire experts like Bolling to provide this kind of cogent threat analysis.

P.S. Let's not forget the monsters at Fisher-Price and what they did to the Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle and Coo doll.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:19 AM | Comments (7)

Taxes (and Pepper Spray) Are for the Little People

The New York Daily News reported yesterday that Brookfield Properties—apparently taking its cue from Leona Helmsley—owes New York City $139,000 in back taxes. Brookfield is the owner of Zuccotti Park, site of the original Occupy Wall Street encampment, and one of the main forces behind its eviction on November 15th.

Just for comparison's sake, $139,000 is four times the annual starting salary for a NYPD officer.

In any case, skipping out on your taxes is clearly very lucrative: Diana L. Taylor, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's girlfriend, was paid $109,954 in 2009 by Brookfield for several days work on its Board of Directors. (See Brookfield's 2010 Management Proxy Circular (PDF), p. 27. According to p. 13 of the circular, Taylor attended nine meetings in 2009, some which may have been on the same days.)

Posted at 10:58 AM | Comments (2)

December 05, 2011

Kenneth Pollack Still 100% Insane

I don't think I'll ever get over Kenneth Pollack. He's such a perfect embodiment of how the people who run the U.S. are simultaneously incredibly boring and incredibly dangerous. For previous posts about him, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and probably other places I've forgotten about.

Anyway, via Glenn Greenwald, I see Pollack is still so disconnected from reality he might as well be a diagnosed schizophrenic. Here are some of his latest insights into foreign policy (from an article about Iran):

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq [was] recklessly aggressive to the point of inadvertent suicide.

Some people might want to focus on the "recklessly aggressive" part here, which I admit is pretty funny. Iraq was so recklessly aggressive that it destroyed all of its most powerful weapons, which is what all the best aggressors do. But the crowning glory of the sentence is the "inadvertent suicide." It's like Al Capone saying the Bugs Moran Gang "accidentally killed themselves."

BONUS: Here's Saddam Hussein talking in December, 1990 before the Gulf War about how, if the Iraqi army were pushed out of Kuwait, it would constitute "aggression":

SADDAM: ...if aggression were to take place, we will assume that Israel has taken part in it. Therefore, without asking any questions, we will strike Israel.

Saddam and Kenneth Pollack are such insightful geopolitical strategists, I just don't understand why their schemes haven't turned out better.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:11 PM | Comments (7)